With this year’s Draft officially in the rear-view mirror, executives around the Majors have set their sights on trade season. Are they buyers or sellers? Is it too early to declare such a thing with seven weeks remaining before the July 31 deadline?
Unlike past years, that date will be even more meaningful this season, as the Aug. 31 waiver Trade Deadline no longer exists. Whatever a team has when the July 31 deadline passes is essentially what it will look like for the stretch run, boosting the urgency to get something done by that date.
Plenty of teams are likely still on the fence when it comes to buying or selling, but the value of many potentially available players are certainly rising and falling like the stock market. Each good week can mean a bigger return for a trade asset, while a bad stretch can have the inverse effect.
Here’s a look at 10 players whose stock is on the rise.
Melky Cabrera, OF, Pirates
Cabrera has been a pleasant surprise for the Pirates, who signed him to a Minor League deal at the start of Spring Training before adding him to the roster less than a week before Opening Day. Cabrera boasts an impressive .833 OPS in 59 games, which would be his highest since his All-Star season of 2012. He’ll be 35 on Aug. 11, but he can play either corner outfield spot and he’s earning only $1.15 million this season, with a chance to add $850,000 in incentives.
Potential fits: Indians, Athletics
Jake Diekman, LHP, Royals
The 32-year-old reliever is pitching better than his 4.10 ERA would indicate, posting a 2.95 FIP, a 1.101 WHIP and an impressive strikeout rate of 13.3 per nine innings. A bad week at the end of May drove his ERA up from 2.86 to 4.26, but he’s stranded 12 of 16 inherited runners this season (75 percent) and would be a nice piece for a contending bullpen to add. He’s earning $2.25 million this season and has a mutual 2020 option for $5.75 million with a $500,000 buyout.
Potential fits: Dodgers, Brewers, Braves, Phillies
Derek Dietrich, INF/OF, Reds
Few players have had the type of breakout season that Dietrich has, already surpassing his career-high with 17 home runs in 61 games. Signed by the Reds on a Minor League deal in mid-February, Dietrich is making $2 million this season, a bargain given his home run total and .984 OPS, not to mention his impressive versatility in the field, where he’s started games at first base, second base and left field.
Potential fits: Rangers, Indians
Edwin Encarnacion, 1B/DH, Mariners
Encarnacion’s 32 home runs last season marked his lowest total since 2011, but the first baseman/designated hitter already has 21 blasts in 64 games. The 36-year-old still gets on base at a solid rate (.360), and although he’s played 45 games in the field this season, he figures to be most appealing to an American League team looking to add a power bat to the middle of its lineup. He’s still due the pro-rated portion of his $20 million salary, not to mention a $20 million option for 2020 (or a $5 million buyout), so Seattle will likely need to pay some of that down in order to get any kind of decent return for Encarnacion.
Potential fits: Astros, Rangers
Howie Kendrick, INF, Nationals
Who knows if the Nationals will opt to become a seller, but Kendrick figures to be an appealing asset; another jack-of-all-trades type, Kendrick is having the most productive offensive season of his career at the age of 35. He’ll turn 36 on July 12, but the 14-year veteran has shown no sign of letting up, slashing .325/.372/.589 with 11 home runs and 40 RBIs in 56 games. He’s started games at first, second and third base, giving potential suitors a versatile infield option. Kendrick is making $4 million this season, the second of a two-year, $7 million deal he signed in January 2018.
Potential fits: Rays, Athletics
Tanner Roark, RHP, Reds
Roark’s 4-5 record isn’t indicative of the way he’s pitched this season; he owns a 3.74 ERA, a 3.44 FIP, and more than a strikeout per inning. The 32-year-old has also cut down his home runs per game from a year ago (1.2 per nine innings to 0.7), while boosting his strikeout rate from 7.3 per nine to 9.2. He’s on a one-year, $10 million deal and is headed for free agency after the season, so if the Reds fall out of the postseason picture, he could be a back-end option for a contending rotation.
Potential fits: Cardinals, Rays
Max Scherzer, RHP, Nationals
For teams seeking a front-of-the-rotation, difference-making arm, is there anybody that fits the bill more than Scherzer? It would be a big statement by the Nationals to trade the three-time Cy Young Award winner, but if they’re ever going to do it, this summer is the time. Scherzer will gain 10-and-5 rights at the end of the season, allowing him to block any trade during the final two years of his contract. If the Nationals fade further in the race, they could restock their farm system with one big move, dealing the soon-to-be-35-year-old to a contender. Scherzer is owed $35 million a year through 2021, albeit with a lot of deferred money, but teams might be willing to take the risk, hoping for a Justin Verlander-to-Houston type of result.
Potential fits: Yankees, Padres
Will Smith, LHP, Giants
Smith is having the best season of his seven-year career, posting a 2.10 ERA with 15 saves, a 191 ERA+ and a 1.86 FIP in 26 games. Smith, who turns 30 on July 10, has a strikeout rate of 12.8 per nine innings to go along with a career-low walk rate of 1.8 per nine. In what is setting up as a relatively weak reliever trade market, Smith -- who makes $4.225 million and will be a free agent at the end of the year -- could be one of the more popular names of the trade season.
Potential fits: Red Sox, Twins, Braves, Phillies
Justin Smoak, 1B, Blue Jays
Don’t let Smoak’s meager .233 average fool you -- he’s having a solid offensive season for Toronto. Smoak’s .368 on-base percentage should make him appealing to several teams, as should his salary; the 32-year-old is making $8 million this season and will be a free agent at the end of the year.
Potential fits: Astros, Red Sox
Kirby Yates, RHP, Padres
It might seem crazy for the Padres to consider trading Yates, who has been nothing short of spectacular this season. He leads the Majors with 23 saves, has a 0.96 ERA and 15.4 strikeouts per nine, but with a salary just north of $3 million and another year of arbitration eligibility, Yates would be one of the most sought-after arms of the summer. San Diego traded Brad Hand last summer after signing him to a club-friendly extension; doing the same with the red-hot Yates could be another sell-high move by GM A.J. Preller.
Potential fits: Twins, Brewers, Braves, Phillies